Orlando City Council Passes Draconian Zoning Ordinance

ORLANDO, Fla.—In passing a new ordinance that requires adult businesses to be more than 2,500 feet from schools, parks, churches, bars and residential areas, the Orlando city council has sent this message to adult businesses interested in moving to the central Florida city best known as the home to Disney World: Don’t bother.

The message is not only legislative but verbal. "We're a little more picky about what types of businesses we want in Orlando," Mayor Buddy Dyer said, with the clear if ungrammatical implication that Orlando is more serious about addressing the adult entertainment issue than other townships.

With an estimated population just over 225,000, Orlando currently claims only one adult business within its city limits—Fairvilla Megastore, owned by Bill Murphy, the former vice president of the Board of Directors of the Free Speech Coalition.

The vote Monday by the city commissioners was 6-1, with Tony Ortiz the only commissioner to vote against the new, more restrictive code.

Even before the vote was taken, Dyer, anticipating passage, enthused about how effective it would be. "I'd be willing to bet we do not see another adult entertainment establishment open in Orlando, based on the very restrictive ordinance we're about to pass," he said.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the city’s newly strengthened law—which also requires prospective adult businesses to now apply for a permit or license—is intended to keep adult businesses out without triggering a lawsuit alleging unconstitutional restrictions.

“The city's new adult entertainment ordinance actually opens more land in Orlando to adult businesses, all of it in areas zoned for industrial use,” the paper says. “But it also expands buffer zones between adult businesses and schools, parks, churches, bars and residential areas. City officials said they had to amend the ordinance because the existing rules left the city open to a lawsuit from adult businesses on constitutional grounds.”

Somewhat ironically, Orlando also is home to one of the nation's highest population percentage of LGBT people. According to a study by UCLA, 7.7 percent of Orlando's population is gay, lesbian or bisexual and with 5.7 percent of the entire metropolitan population, it ranks ninth in the nation.

Perhaps Mayor Dyer and the city council now should take a closer look at school textbooks to ensure they reflect the "picky" values so important to the citizens of Orlando.